I just need to whine a little, and produce an insubstantial tirade about lack of substance. Feel free to skip this post.
I was horrified when Kerry chose Edwards as his running-mate. It struck me as a typical manifestation of "Quail disease" -- an aged political party desperately trying to prove its virility by getting in bed with an inexperienced sweet young thing. It just makes the party look silly in the morning, when they're saddled with a vapid gum-snapping adolescent who can't converse with their friends.
Some polls say Edwards won the debate, which just makes me feel (if possible) more alienated. I thought he made a very poor showing indeed, and I pray that he never becomes president. Cheney gave him several openings for refuting the "flip-flop" charges, and he failed, miserably, to exploit them. Instead he dribbled out bits of his stump speeches, and basically let every accusation that Cheney levelled at him stand. His own record is not very defensible, admittedly, but Kerry's is reasonably so.
The Bush-Cheney campaign has made great play, of course, with the fact that most Americans don't have a clue how congressional politics work -- that legislative votes are usually bargaining chips, not stands of conscience, and that anyone with a straight-track voting record is probably an ineffectual congressman. (Which is why it's so hard to move from the congress into the presidency; governors have a much better shot at it.) But even so, Edwards could have fought back. Cheney's caricature of Kerry's record would have been easy to take down -- but only by someone who had the particulars in his head. Edwards clearly didn't. Instead he trotted out his own caricature of Cheney's record, and made much of the Halliburton stuff (in precisely the wrong way -- the problem is not that Cheney's lining his personal pockets; the problem is that Cheney's class loyalties are so strong as to be invisible to himself -- he really believes that what's good for Halliburton is good for the nation.)
There were some moments of high comedy, as when Cheney completely missed the moderator's hint that since she was addressing him as Mr Vice President, he might in return call her something other than "Gwen." Certainly the Bush campaign scored no points with African-Americans last night. Cheney appeared startled to learn that there were such creatures still roaming about in White America. (Edwards also stuck to "Gwen," but since he gives the impression of being someone who always calls everyone by their first name, and since he didn't say it every other sentence, it didn't stick out so much.)
I thought that Cheney's grim silence about his disagreement with the President over Gay marriage conferred a sort of dignity on him -- he's given his alliegance, and that's that. I liked it, though I imagine it lost him points with a lot of people.
All in all, it was a rather depressing event. Particularly when the newscasters came on and called it "substantive." Eh? Nasty and mean-spirited, sure. But substantive? I wracked my brains trying to think of what they could mean, but I'm still baffled.